Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect new information provided by the Atlanta Police Department.
Last week’s climate rally in downtown Atlanta gave way Friday to climate protests that saw nearly 20 arrests as demonstrators attempted to block some of metro Atlanta’s busiest streets.
The protests — organized by Extinction Rebellion Atlanta, part of an international movement to fight climate change through direct action and civil disobedience — drew about 200 people who stopped traffic on Peachtree Road in Buckhead and near 10th and Peachtree in Midtown. According to police, 19 people were arrested during the climate protests.
The event capped a week of international protests in 150 countries and thousands of locations, including several across Georgia. Designed to coincide with the United Nations Climate Action Summit, protesters hoped to create awareness about climate change and urge lawmakers to take action.
“Climate change is a product of our own miscalculations,” said Laurel Wheatley, 18, a student at Georgia State University and a first-time protester along with her friend, Danae Antoine, 19. “We have to be active about it,” Antoine said. “This is our future.”
>> PHOTOS | Southeast Climate Strike and Rebellion in Atlanta
In metro Atlanta, the demonstrations included a Sept. 20 youth-led protest inspired by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist, in which about 200 students and adults rallied on the steps of the state Capitol. A number of smaller protests also took place at metro area K-12 schools and college campuses throughout the week. Friday’s demonstration was specifically planned as an act of civil disobedience.
The crowd gathered at 9:30 a.m. at the Buckhead MARTA station and began its march through the streets. The group intended to stop at the intersection of Peachtree Road and Piedmont to set up a street party with music, performances and speeches throughout the day, but police stopped protesters attempting to set up barricades in the street near Terminus Road.
Police quickly cuffed and detained those who tried to move around the police blockade or remain in the street. Some protesters were arrested on the sidewalk.
Of the 19 arrested, the majority were charged with wearing a mask, which is prohibited by law in most cases, or pedestrian on or along the roadway. Some were charged with disorderly conduct or prohibited conduct during assemblies.
Individuals who were cited with “wearing a mask” were taken to the Fulton County Jail while all others were taken to city jail, said Carlos Campos, spokesman for the Atlanta Police Department.
Campos declined to give the number of officers deployed on Friday, only stating that it was an adequate number to ensure the safety of pedestrians and motorists.
Many protesters were prepared for a full day of action to disrupt “business as usual” across metro Atlanta. “We are out here to raise awareness, and if that means we have to go to jail, so be it,” said Scot Hollonbeck, 49, a dad from Decatur, his wheelchair adorned with Extinction Rebellion flags. “I’m tired of signing petitions and asking nicely. We are all complicit in this.”
Later in the afternoon, about 120 protesters gathered in Piedmont Park to regroup and decide their next move. “The point was disruption. This is an emergency,” said Jordan Streiff, 35, of Extinction Rebellion Atlanta. “The goal of Extinction Rebellion and its allied organizations who are here is to raise the alarm while we still have some time to act.” He said this is just the start of more actions to come in the Southeast.
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